After more than a decade in the casino industry, Matthew Dillon decided it was time for a career change. He’d always been interested in the probabilistic algorithms behind the slot machines—the mathematics of gambling, if you will—and had enrolled in casino college at age 19. He’d worked his way up to floor manager and was supervising up to 75 employees at a time as well as over 1,000 guests, but he found himself burning out.
He took a leave of absence from his job to plan his next move. After downloading the Career Karma app on a whim, he discovered Springboard. A month later, he quit his job to focus on completing Springboard’s Software Engineering Career Track and making a full-fledged career change. Some days were harder than others. As his savings dwindled, he struggled to justify his leap of faith to himself while supporting two young daughters, but he persevered.
“Changing careers has been the best thing I've ever decided to do,” said Matthew. “I'm still loving it and learning every day.”
When I was 19, I entered the casino industry after going to a casino college. I stayed there for 15 years and worked my way up. Eventually, I became a manager and I was watching 75-80 employees and dealing with all the guests.
But as I got older, the work became less exciting and more tiring. I was going out and partying every night even though I was working. A few years ago, I started a family—I have two little girls now—so that lifestyle wasn’t working for us. My mental health suffered quite a bit. Depression and anxiety started creeping up because I just knew this wasn't good for me.
I took a leave of absence, and during that time I discovered the Career Karma app and I started looking into how I could learn how to code. A few phone calls later, I was enrolled in Springboard.
The discomfort was more than I could even imagine or describe to someone, especially when my safety net started running out and I was thinking, "Oh my God, how am I going to pay bills? How is this going to work for my family?" The past few months before I finally got that job offer, the anxiety and stress were starting to get really high.
I knew I was doing the right thing and you just have to believe that if you keep putting in the work you’ll make it. It was a rough journey but it was 100,000% worth it.
I read about the mentorship program and how I could delay my tuition payments until after I graduated. I also spoke with a representative from Springboard and I really liked how she handled our interview. Also, the price point was better than some of the other bootcamps I looked into.
I really enjoyed my experience and Colt Steele [acclaimed Udemy instructor who designed the curriculum for the Software Engineering Career Track] was amazing. I really felt like I got to know him through the videos.
A few years ago I tried another online program that was self-paced but there was no mentorship. I felt a lack of direction. Springboard offered the structure that I needed with a complete curriculum, mentorship, and career coaching. Of course, it’s impossible not to feel apprehensive when you start something new, but you have to embrace the discomfort and believe that you’re doing the right thing.
My mentor was really supportive. I was hoping we could spend more time on actual hands-on coding during our mentor calls, but the conversations were more about checking in on my progress and discussing my career plans after graduation.
I do feel adequately prepared. However, I do recommend that Springboard students participate in hackathons to get experience working with other devs and learn how to do branching, rebasing, and merging. Now that I’ve started my job I’m trying to learn the actual workflows of collaborating with 10 or 15 people on a project.
It's great to be involved in everything Springboard has to offer—the Slack community, career coaches, and mentorship—but you have to get out there and be active on LinkedIn. Almost everyday I was on LinkedIn searching for new contacts, trying to network, responding to comments.
Also, don’t be shy about announcing your career change on LinkedIn. Tell people what you’re working on, what you’re learning, what you hope to achieve. It took me a year to finish the Software Engineering Career Track because I spent 50% of my time networking on LinkedIn, Twitter, Discord and other dev communities.
With all that being said about putting yourself out there, I got my job through a cold application on ZipRecruiter. But multiple companies I interviewed with mentioned that they were impressed with my GitHub profile. I committed a lot of code that entire year so I could show employers I was coding almost every single day, and I think that went a long way.
I started at LaunchBadge as a front-end developer. I just got put on my first project and this week things have been starting to ramp up. So, I'm learning a lot and I'm glad I found a team lead who is very helpful. It’s exciting and fun, but I’m still uncomfortable. I think it’s just the imposter syndrome—you have to get used to it and put it out of your mind. One minute I’ll feel like, “This is easy. I got this.” The next minute it’s “I don’t know anything about anything.”
If you truly know you’re not in the right place, make a move, even if it takes years. I was in the casino business for a total of 15 years and for the last eight I wasn’t happy. Don’t give up. You just have to keep looking for new avenues to find something you love doing. Your life will be a million times better and your mental health will thank you.